The Ethiopian incumbent operator is threatening legal action against Safaricom Ethiopia after the latter reportedly damaged their infrastructure

At the start of October, Safaricom Ethiopia officially launched commercial mobile services in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, marking the end of one of the world’s last remaining telecoms monopolies.

Since then, the company has been rapidly rolling out its own network across the country, as well as extending services to additional customers via an infrastructure sharing agreement with Ethio Telecom.

However, the relationship between the incumbent and the newcomer is already beginning to fray, with Ethio Telecom suggesting it could sue Safaricom over network disruption suffered earlier this week.

In a Twitter thread, the operator said its customers in the Afar region had experienced a service blackout on December 11 as a result of damage to their infrastructure caused by Safaricom Ethiopia. The latter was in the process of deploying their own infrastructure in the region.

“As a result of the construction of the line that was being carried out, our international communication line passing through Djibouti as well as our service lines in the Afar region were severely damaged in many places. Extensive repairs have been carried out by our company’s experts and the telecom service has been restored,” read the Tweet, originally posted in Amharic. “Therefore, for the harassment, interruption of service, and loss suffered by our honourable customers, we declare that we will hold the parties who committed the act without prior warning accountable by law.”

This clash is the first sign of real tension between the two companies, who until now have appeared relatively amiable.

However, the Ethiopian telecoms market could soon get even more complicated, with the government announcing last month that they would reinitiate the sector’s long-delayed liberalisation process.

This will include allocating a third national telecoms licence to a winning bidder, as well as selling a 40% stake in Ethio Telecom.

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